For restaurant employees, the holidays are a magical time filled with good cheer, cooperation, and smooth sailing work shifts. Nothing ever goes wrong, right? Hardly. What is it about guests wanting to have a good time and spread holiday cheer that can bring out the worst? 

We’ve gathered a collection of kitchen nightmares from Chef Cari Price of the Marlin Network Culinary Arts group. We’re sure you can relate to a few of these—or not. There’s also a list of staff appreciation ideas to help keep your staff motivated.

#1 The Kitchen Safety Nightmare

Tired + Rushed + Stressed = Accidents

Greasy floors are a holiday nightmare. One of my employees slid and caught herself by putting her hand in the deep fryer. It was terrifying. Another employee sliced their leg open while carrying a heavy, overflowing trash can. 

#2 Guests Want What They Want

If FOH and BOH aren’t working together, bad things happen. 

Many restaurants will only offer special menus on holidays to highlight the chef’s creativity—and to speed things up BOH. But often guests are frustrated with not being able to order off regular menu at regular prices. Seems like when people ought to be their cheeriest… they simply aren’t. 


#3 Equipment, Don’t Fail Me Now! (But It Probably Will…)

Every holiday season seems to come with its own equipment disaster. Lucky you. 

Our reach-in freezer inexplicably kept turning off and on. It was like it was possessed. No one could figure out what was wrong with it. Nothing like having a repair guy say, “Seems to be working fine to me.”  And later that season, the service line went down during a holiday rush due to a breaker flip. This super labour-intensive handmade product spoiled on me. 


#4 The Fine Art of Holiday Inventory

You have to have enough on hand to satisfy rushes, but not too much. 

Distributors can make mistakes, too. Once we had the wrong order delivered and fully unpacked. Our service had already started before someone noticed. It made for a very, very stressful evening. 


#5 Fast and Furious Mistakes

As you know, with great speed comes great mistakes. 

I was running a large scale catering company during a busy Christmas holiday. One of my employees spilled the entire speed rack of hot panned mashed potatoes all over the ground just before service. It was like that scene from The Office where Kevin spills the chili. (It’s worth a google.) It wasn’t entirely my employees fault; they were just trying to move too fast. It was a horrible mess to clean up, but on top of that, my chef had to use instant potatoes as a replacement. 

4 Staff Appreciation Ideas

Your staff can become an extended family. Sure there are days you want to strangle them, but at the end of the day, happy employees are the key to running a successful operation. Here are some thought starters on ways to show your employees they’re appreciated.

#1 Plus Up the Shift Meal

Consider something special for family meals like roasted beef tenderloin instead of chicken breast. Letting them know you understand the extra stress they’re going through can go a long way.

#2 Staff Raffle

Have drawings where you give away relevant items or gifts. New wine tools, high quality knives or fancy aprons would be a hit with employees.

#3 Countdown and Party

It might be best to do this one after the holidays are over, but think about closing up on one slow evening for a staff-only party. Post a countdown to the event to keep everyone motivated. 

#4 Friendly Competition and BBQ

Bring everyone together for a little soccer or whatever sport you think appeals most to your staff. It’ll make a memorable team-building exercise.

Chef Inspiration